Concerned about a broader pattern of
wrongdoing, the two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee sent
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a letter yesterday asking the Pentagon to look
into temporarily suspending United Technologies Corporation's (UTC) subsidiary,
Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC), from bidding on U.S. military contracts
after the company pled guilty to providing China with sensitive military
On June 28, PW&C reached a deal with the
Justice Department, in which it admitted violating the Arms Export Control Act
(AECA) by giving the Chinese access to critical software used to control 10 helicopter
engines it sold China in 2001 and 2002. The software used in the engines was
designed for U.S. military helicopters, and Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and
John McCain (R-Az.) say it can be used to help China build its "first modern
Additional charges against U.S.-based
UTC and several of its subsidiaries were deferred since the company has agreed
to pay a $75 million fine, implement "remedial measures," and be monitored for
the next two years to ensure it doesn't violate either AECA or the
International Traffic in Arms Regulations, according to the
U.S. State Department.
In addition to these penalties, the State
Department has partially banned
from exporting engines containing U.S.-made technology. The only exceptions are
for programs with the U.S. government, U.S. allies in Operation Enduring
Freedom, and NATO members or "major non-NATO" allies.
This is not enough to satisfy the senators,
who said in their letter that these violations suggest the "possibility of
systemic deficiencies with the oversight and enforcement of export controls"
among U.S. aerospace companies.
"The nature of these export control
violations and the length of time during which they occurred raise the concern
that they may have caused significant harm to our national security," they
write in the letter. "We therefore,
ask that you provide the Committee with a full assessment of the extent of the
harm caused to national security by all of these violations."
The senators' letter comes as one of the
defense industry's chief lobbying groups, the Aerospace Industries Association,
is pushing, with some success, to alter U.S. arms
export laws by removing "burdensome and unnecessary restrictions" on "technologies
with low or no military or intelligence sensitivity."
This is not the first time western
defense companies have raised lawmakers' ire by dealing with China. Several
months ago Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta, calling for the
Pentagon to review
GE's partnership with China's state-owned aircraft maker, AVIC, which is developing
avionics for a commercial airliner.
"Continued improvements in China's civil
aviation capabilities enhance Chinese military aviation capabilities because of
the close integration of China's commercial and military aviation sectors,"
said Forbes' letter, quoting the 2011 edition of the U.S.-China
Economic Security Review Commission's annual
to Congress, which
details the national security implications of trade between the two countries. "They
[the commission] also state that, ‘as part of its indigenous innovation policy,
China incentivizes foreign companies to transfer technology in exchange for
Other U.S.-based aerospace companies
that are legally supplying China with aviation technology include Honeywell and
Rockwell Collins, which are providing the cockpit suites for China's MA700
regional turboprop and MA600 turboprop, respectively. Both planes are made by
AVIC. Honeywell and Rockwell have not come under the same criticism as GE,
which is developing avionics for a brand new Chinese jet.
College professor Andrew Erickson has
argued that while some of the partnerships between
U.S. aerospace firms and their Chinese counterparts may be legal, they risk
supplying "the Chinese aerospace
industry a 100 piece puzzle with 90 of the pieces already assembled,"
left out so that the exporting companies can comply with the letter of the
export control laws, but in reality, a rising military power is potentially
being given relatively low-cost recipes for building the jet engines needed to
power key military power projection platforms including tankers, AWACS,
maritime patrol aircraft, transport aircraft, and potentially, subsonic bombers
armed with standoff weapons systems," he wrote.
Photo via airforceworld.com